1. Estimates of degradability of nitrogen in the sheep rumen for a basal hay diet and for soya-bean meal (SBM), groundnut meal (GNM) and fish meal (FM), when given together with the hay, were determined from measurements of (1) duodenal N flow, (2) ammonia kinetics and (3) rumen N disappearance from polyester bags and rumen outflow rate. The ability of various in vitro procedures to predict in vivo N degradability was also examined.
2. Four sheep were given a basal hay diet (800 g dry matter (DM) and 19 g N/d) either alone or supplemented with isonitrogenous amounts (15 g N/d) of SBM, GNM or FM. Duodenal non-ammonia-N flow (g/d) was increased more by FM (8.0) than by GNM (5.9) and SBM (5.8), whilst microbial N flow (g/d) was increased more by SBM (3.9) than by GNM (2.3) and FM (1.6). N degradability values calculated from these results were 0.88, 0.76 and 0.57 for the SBM, GNM and FM respectively. The corresponding value for hay was calculated to be 0.76.
3. The irreversible loss of ammonia in the forestomachs (g N/d) was increased more by SBM (11.9) than by GNM (7.2) and FM (5.8) whilst ammonia outflow from the rumen (g N/d) was increased to a similar extent by all supplements ( I.1, 0.9 and 0.8 respectively), as was the amount of microbial N (g/d) synthesized from sources other than rumen ammonia (1.8, 2.0 and 1.9 respectively). N degradability values calculated from these results were 0.84, 0.54 and 0.45 for the SBM, GNM and FM respectively.
4. The fractional rate of N disappearance (/h) when the feedstuffs were incubated in polyester bags in the rumen of sheep receiving the basal hay diet (800 g DM/d) was the highest for SBM (0,145) and lowest for FM (0.037), with the hay (0.082) and GNM (0.071) intermediate, whilst the fractional outflow rates from the rumen (/h) of the three supplements were similar (0.034, 0.038 and 0,030 for SBM, GNM and FM espectively). N degradability values calculated from these results were 0.82, 0.67 and 0.60 for the SBM, GNM and FM respectively; the value for the hay was 0.73.
5. Of a number of in vitro procedures tested, only N solubility in sodium hydroxide and ammonia or total non-protein-N (NPN) production during incubation with rumen fluid in the absence of hydrazine sulphate ranked the supplements, although not the hay, in the same order as the in vivo degradability procedures. In terms of absolute values, N solubility in NaOH, at room temperature, gave estimates similar to those derived from the duodenal flow measurements; estimates derived from ammonia and total NPN production were lower.